Increased funding for volunteers who visit dying patients at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital

Butterfly volunteer team coordinator Angela Fenn (white top) with other members of the team.

Butterfly volunteer team coordinator Angela Fenn (white top) with other members of the team. - Credit: Archant

Volunteers who provide companionship for dying patients who have no visitors at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital have been given a funding boost in the wake of a national report which reveals patients are dying alone due to staff shortages.

The Butterly volunteer team was first piloted at the hospital in May last year, when 15 to 20 patients facing the end of their life were dying alone there each month.

The specially trained volunteers provide companionship for those people who have few or no visitors and the team has now been awarded funding worth a total of £64,450 over three years from the Dunhill Medical Trust to help continue and expand the service.

The Dunhill Medical Trust is a grant-giving charity which supports the care of older people, and the Butterfly team now aims to make 6,000 visits over the next three years.

Coordinator Angela Fenn said: “The Butterfly volunteer team was created last year with the ultimate aim of making sure no patient at the Lister dies alone.

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“Already, our team has visited and spent time with 312 dying adults at the hospital between January and August this year.

“The donation from the Dunhill Medical Trust will allow us to extend the service to seven days a week and help recruit more volunteers.”

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A new report from the Royal College of Nursing, disclosing concerns of frontline nursing staff based on 30,000 members’ responses to a survey, shows patients nationally are dying alone due to staff shortages.

Over half of the respondents said there were less nursing staff on shift than planned and that care quality suffered as a result.

Janet Davies, RCN’s chief executive, said: “When this many professionals blow the whistle, they cannot be overlooked. The nursing shortage is biting hard and needs the attention of ministers.”

In addition to immediate reviews in each care setting, the RCN is calling for new legislation that guarantees safe and effective nurse staffing.

The RCN is also calling for increased funding for health and care services to meet patient demand, and is planning to launch a campaign next May.

If you would like to join the Butterfly volunteer team, or would like to know more about the project, you can call 07825 072142 or email

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